Oregon Pioneer Biographies-Hiram Alva JOHNSON

Oregon Pioneer Biographies


Hiram Alva JOHNSON

From "The Oregon Daily Statesman," Feb. 5, 1896:

In 1874, at the request of his family, Mr. Johnson began a biography of himself and continued to add to it as the years rolled by until 1890, when the work was temporarily dropped.

In it he says:

I was born in the town of Russel, St. Lawrence county, state of New York, on the 18th day of February 1819. My father's name was Charles Johnson. My mother's maiden name was Rachel Pratt. She had been married to a man by the name of Veil, before she became the wife of my father, and had four daughters. My father and mother had seven children - four sons and three daughters. My oldest sister died when she was about 2 years old; she was scalded by turning a tub of hot water upon herself. Three of my half sisters, two of my whole sisters and three brothers are still living. (July, 1874)

When I was 8 years old, my father moved to Edwards, about eight miles from Russel. I was raised to hard work on a farm. My father was a hard-working, industrious farmer and considered at that time as very well off. My parents were strictly moral and religious, belonging to the Baptist Church. When I was 20, I started out for myself, working for my brother in law, James Foster, in Jefferson County, New York. The fall before this, I went to Lewis County, New York, to work, but soon became homesick and went back home. In the fall of 1839, I went back to Russel and lived with my brother-in-law, Elihu Phelps, and attended school during the winter. In the spring, I concluded, I would buy a piece of land and go to work on it. I made a partial contract for a piece of timberland with my brother-in-law and went to work, chopping off the underbrush, for a clearing. I followed this for a few days and became discouraged and told the folks I was going West. I had a brother living in Illinois and I started for that country in May, 1840. I took a steamer at Ogdensburgh, the first one I had ever traveled on (never having seen one until the winter before). The first night we had a severe storm and I became very seasick and concluded, if I ever got on land again, I would keep off the water in the future. We landed at Rochester and I took the canal boat for Buffalo. I soon got tired of this slow way of getting along and then took a steamboat for Chicago, where we arrived after a pleasant trip.

I then traveled on foot from Chicago to Ottoway, on the Illinois River, there taking a boat for Florence, Pike County, Illinois. I arrived at my brother's about the middle of May and afterwards worked some of the time for a man near by. The next winter I again attended school. With the exception of one winter, I attended school about three months each year from the time I was 4 years old until I was 22, consequently my education was what might be called tolerably good. When I arrived in Illinois, I had no property except my clothes.

On the 25th of July 1841, I was married to Elizabeth Jane Whitley and went to keeping house on forty acres of land that she had partly paid for. Remaining there two years, I sold that place and took up a quarter section of land on Bay Creek in the same county. I worked hard, fenced and broke a small field, built a house, raised a crop of corn, took the ague, got discouraged and sold out in the fall and went back on Honey Creek and contracted for another quarter-section of land and went to work improving it. In the fall of 1845, I sold out with the calculation of going to Texas in the following spring. During the winter I made my arrangements for the trip, but a short time previous to the time for starting, one of my horses was accidentally killed and consequently, I could not go. This I have always considered as a great blessing, for had I gone to Texas, I am satisfied that would not have been satisfied with the country and would have left it soon and then come to Oregon as others did who went at that time.

In the spring of 1846, I moved to Pittsfield, Illinois, and followed teaming with an ox team. In June I went on a visit to my people in New York, calculating to start to Oregon the next spring. I went by way of St Louis, up The Ohio River, thence across by stage to Erie, thence down Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Had a pleasant visit with my father's family and returned home in July.

I remained in Pittsfield until the following April 5, 1847, when we started overland with an ox team for Oregon. Everything considered, we had a very pleasant journey. We crossed the Missouri River on May 1st and arrived at Fort Laramie on June 4th, the Green River July 4th, Fort Hall about the 1st of August, Dallas September 4th and reached Oregon City September 10th.

We stopped in Clackamas County a few days and then came to Marion County and took up a claim one and a half miles north of The Santiam River. The claim had been taken before and abandoned. There was a small cabin on it and we moved into it and went to work. I followed making rails that winter and worked in rain and shine. I could not get wheat for work, but could get plenty of beef and potatoes. I used to walk to my work three miles and back and cut and split three hundred rails a day. I fenced and broke ten acres and put in wheat and have always had plenty of everything since.

In the fall of 1848 I went to the California gold mines, working thirty-eight days and made about $2000. Then left the mines and went to San Francisco and waited a long time for a passage home, and then took a sailing vessel for the Columbia River. Arrived home the 1st of March. I worked on the farm that season and in the fall started to the mines again, but when I got to Shasta Peak, I met a good many coming back, disgusted with the mines, and returned home myself. .....

Politically I was a Democrat until the democracy went into rebellion and I did not go with them. I have been a Republican ever since.

I united with the M. E. Church when I was about 15 years of age and was immersed by them. At the age of 22, after I came to Illinois, I became acquainted with the Christian Church and united with them and have continued a firm believer in the New Testament Christianity ever since. I never played a game of cards for anything - don't even know how they count cards. Never was on the floor to dance. Have been strictly temperate, yet never belonging to any temperance organization since I was a boy. Never used tobacco except to smoke a cigar occasionally and am not guilty of any of the bad habits that most men indulge in. This may look like boasting, but I may as well tell the truth. In the summer of 1863 I joined the A. F. & A. M. and have never regretted it. I think, next to Christianity, it is the best institution now in operation.




Whereas, a proclamation was made on the 18th inst, Authorising the Enrollment of two companies of volunteers for the purpose of the chastisement of the Indians who perpetrated the recent melancholy outrage near Fort Boise-and the US military authorities having put a force in the field, which they deem to be sufficient, and having declined to cooperate with the expedition, even by furnishing it with the necessary munitions of war for its equipment, and believing that these essentials can not be procured. --?-subsistence and other supplies furnished from the settlements at large, in time to enable the exhibition to strike an effective blow before winter will have set in, or to get a sufficient quantity of them transported to so remote a point in the interior, as the scene of the disaster, to make them available for a winter campaign.---

This proclamation is therefore issued, while acknowledging the gallantry of those who responded so promptly to the call, that the said enrollment may be countermanded, with the hope that unless the massacre shall have been avenged, by the forces already out, The Assembly, at the ensuing session, will take measures to warrant the undertaking so soon as winter shall have passed.

Given under my hand, at Salem,

this 22nd day of September 1856.

(Signed) Geo L. Curry

Acting Governor of Oregon

September 26, 1856

Commissions issued to Company officers of the 1st Regt. Of Militia, as follows:

Company A: Jacob Goss Capt., A.M. Fellows 1st. Lt. Solomon Durbin 2nd Lt.
B: Wm. J. Heemen Capt., Frank Rector 1st Lt., John Baker 2nd Lt.
C: Thomas Shaw Capt., Titus Smith 1st Lt., Pleasant Howell 2nd Lt.
D: Jacob --? Capt., Wm. Kinney 2nd Lt., H. A. Johnson, 2nd. Lt.
E: Paul Darst Capt., W. J. Allpine 1st Lt., Wm. P. Hendreicks 2nd Lt.
F: Ralph A. Geer Capt., John Davenport 1 st. Lt., Stephen Jones 2nd Lt.
G: -------- Johnson, Capt., F. E. Eldridge 1 st. lt., ----? -----? ----? 2nd lt.

Note line D. where Mr. Johnson was appointed as a LT. in the militia.


Submitted by Gary Poole, Wallowa, Oregon, great great grandson of William Henry Howard, and great grandson of Amos Henry Howard. June 27, 1999.

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